Traditionally, late March means the NCAA tournament at the University of North Carolina, but despite the mens' basketball team getting knocked out by Kansas on March 24, the dozens of NFL representatives on hand for the Tar Heels Pro Day on Wednesday proved that the university remains a hotbed for athletic talent.
Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis and Jacksonville Jaguars coach Gus Bradley were among the key decision-makers reportedly on hand for Tuesday's workout, which featured 15 former Tar Heels, not the least of whom were two potential first-round prospects: guard/center Jonathan Cooper and defensive tackle Sylvester Williams. Also present were Detroit Lions' general manager Martin Mayhew and New York Jets' general manager John Idzik, as well as David Caldwell, the Jaguars' GM.
The 6-foot-2 1/4, 308-pound Cooper elected to stand on his combine numbers but was put through a variety of positional drills, including taking snaps at center. According to a source on the scene, Cooper looked "fantastic."
Also boosting his cause was the 6-2 3/8, 311-pound Williams, who has been steadily climbing up draft boards since an impressive performance at the Senior Bowl.
Like Cooper, Williams elected not to participate during the timed drills, but that didn't mean he wasn't put through a litany of tests. The light-footed defensive tackle was asked to participate in linebacker drills, in fact.
Running back Giovani Bernard may have been the biggest name of UNC's flashy skill-position athletes, but the only measured drill he performed Wednesday was in the bench press. He was quite impressive in this test, however, as the 5-8 1/2, 204-pounder lifted the bar 19 times. Bernard also showed superb quickness and burst during his positional drills. According to the source, the Bengals' Lewis seemed to be particularly interested in Bernard's workout.
While Lewis focused on Bernard, many of the other talent evaluators on hand seemed to be focused on the offensive linemen -- and not just Cooper.
Talented offensive tackle Brennan Williams took advantage of the opportunity to demonstrate his athleticism. The 6-5 1/2, 311-pound Williams entered the year as one of the more intriguing right tackle prospects in the country but missed the final four games of his senior season with a torn labrum.
Recovery from the subsequent surgery kept Williams from lifting Wednesday, but he ran the 40-yard dash in 5.20-seconds and recorded a 28.5-inch vertical and a 8-foot, 5-inch broad jump. With only 22 career starts, Williams is unpolished, but he shows intriguing athletic upside on tape and could wind up developing into a better player in the NFL than he was in college. Considering that ACC coaches recognized him with honorable mention accolades despite the fact that he missed a third of the season, that's saying something.
Speaking of players with the raw athleticism to develop, wide receiver Jheranie Boyd only caught four passes for 44 yards and one score in 2012, but he may have earned himself a chance at making an NFL roster as an undrafted free agent with a dazzling workout.
The 6-1 1/8, 187-pound Boyd was clocked in the mid 4.4s and registered a 41.5-inch vertical jump that bystanders believe may have actually been higher. Boyd, according to UNC officials, touched the highest level of the measuring device. This would have tied Southern Miss linebacker Jamie Collins for the second-highest vertical recorded by any player in Indianapolis in 2012. Texas A&M running back Christine Michael led all participants with a 43-inch vertical jump.
Boyd also registered an 11-0 broad jump, which would have tied him with Texas' Marquise Goodwin and Tennessee Tech's Da'Rick Rogers for the second-best broad jump among receivers tested this year in Indianapolis. Tennessee's Justin Hunter recorded an eye-popping 11-4 broad jump to lead all receivers, and the freakishly athletic Collins, all 6-3, 250 pounds of him, led all participants with an 11-7 effort.